By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- One week after embattled President Nicolas Maduro launched “la Guerra del pan”, there is no bread in downtown Caracas. Most bakeries are just closed -- their owners avoiding government intervention or just going out of business altogether, according to the federation that groups bakery owners -- even after the government ordered them to make bread and sell it at controlled prices round the clock.
Only one bakery, El Guanabano, is selling, but to buy it, you have to endure a long line plus orders from “milicianos”, the auxiliary body of the Armed Forces created by Hugo Chavez, Maduro’s mentor and predecessor. Old man: “They burned the oven!”
The oven at “Minka” (formerly “Mansion’s Bakery”, the first expropiated “panaderia”), is not in use, said an old man. “They burned the oven”, he tells us. “You mean they burned the bread?” we ask back, in incredulity. “No! The oven, they (the occupiers), burned the oven!” he repeats.“Minka”: First Casualty, No Bread
A brief walk reveals the truth: “Minka”, the first bakery expropriated by the government, is now closed, not even selling coffee. No bread, no line outside. Just a sign that says they will not sell bread until Monday at the earliest, due to “cleaning”. “Bred”: Militia ... Inspectors ... But No Bread
There is no bread in “Bred”, the bakery one block away from “Minka”. There are however two “milicianos” at the door, eyeing reporters and customers alike suspiciously. The place is empty except for the militia, government inspectors and employees. “We will start selling bread at 2,” an official with Sundde, the government office that expropriates private businesses tells the reporter.
The line is already a block long, but would-be customers were ordered to queue up at the next block: the government does not want unsightly lines outside a freshly-intervened bakery.
Restrictions imposed by the former owners will be maintained, says the Sundde woman.
“Two baguettes per person, or ten rolls. And you can only buy bread once, so, no reselling”, she explains. “How are you going to make sure they only buy once? Have you installed a fingerprints scanner?” the reporter asks her. “Damn! I knew I had forgotten something!”, she says, forgetting for a moment she is a hard-charging inspector. “Bueno, muchachas, we will have to do it visually”, she turns and tells the other inspectors. Bread Lines Without Bread
The line near “Bred”. Aspiring bread-buyers have been told not to wait right outside the bakery. The government, after all, expropriated the bakeries to eliminate such lines.Collective Soul
All around the no-bread zone there is graffiti. “The colectivos take Caracas in defense of the revolution” many read, showing a man holding an assault rifle, in a crouching position. “Colectivos” are armed gangs loyal, supplied and coordinated with the Chavista government, according to NGOs.No Bread in the 23
"Plinio" on the West side of Caracas in the "23 de Enero" barrio, a pro-Maduro area, was famous for its people "sitting outside a nearby (now shut-down) bakery on Saturday enjoying "milhojas" or "sfogliatelle" sweets. Saturday at noon it was closed, and had been closed for a few days, neighbors say.